Mediative adjustment of river dynamics: The role of chute channels in tropical sand-bed meandering rivers

Grenfell, Michael C, Nicholas, A.P. and Aalto, R. (2014) Mediative adjustment of river dynamics: The role of chute channels in tropical sand-bed meandering rivers. Sedimentary Geology, 301. pp. 93-106. doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2013.06.007

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This paper examines processes of chute channel formation in four tropical sand-bed meandering rivers; the Strickland and Ok Tedi in Papua New Guinea, the Beni in Bolivia, and the lower Paraguay on the Paraguay/Argentina border. Empirical planform analyses highlight an association between meander bend widening and chute initiation that is consistent with recent physics-based modelling work. GIS analyses indicate that bend widening may be driven by a variety of mechanisms, including scour and cutbank bench formation at sharply-curving bends, point bar erosion due to cutbank impingement against cohesive terrace material, rapid cutbank erosion at rapidly extending bends, and spontaneous mid-channel bar formation. Chute channel initiation is observed to be predominantly associated with two of these widening mechanisms; i) an imbalance between cutbank erosion and point bar deposition associated with rapid bend extension, and ii) bank erosion forced by spontaneous mid-channel bar development. The work extends previous empirical analyses, which highlighted the role of bend extension (elongation) in driving chute initiation, with the observation that the frequency of chute initiation increases once bend extension rates and/or widening ratios exceed a reach-scale threshold. A temporal pattern of increased chute initiation frequency on the Ok Tedi, in response to channel steepening and mid-channel bar development following the addition of mine tailings, mirrors the inter- and intra-reach spatial patterns of chute initiation frequency on the Paraguay, Strickland and Beni Rivers, where increased stream power and sediment load are associated with increased bend extension and chute initiation rates. The process of chute formation is shown to be rate-dependent, and the threshold values of bend extension and widening ratio for chute initiation are shown to scale with measures of river energy, reminiscent of slope–ratio thresholds in river avulsion. Furthermore, Delft3D simulations suggest that chute formation can exert negative feedback on shear stress and bank erosion in the adjacent mainstem bifurcate, such that the process of chute formation may also be rate-limiting. Chute formation is activated iteratively in space and time in response to changes in river energy (and sediment load), predominantly affecting sites of rapid channel elongation, and thereby mediating the river response.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Chute channels; Planform dynamics; Meandering; Iterative adjustment
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GB Physical geography
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 11 Aug 2016 14:26
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:59

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